The news of students being shot and killed by other students has become far too rampant. This is not a post about guns or gun control. This is about the mentality of some people, both young and old. There are people who think that because you are “different” from them, they can ostracize and bully you for being yourself.
Hearing of so many bullying incidents takes me back to when I was a child/teenager. I was bullied and harassed daily in school and at summer camp. I would complain and cry to my mother that I did not want to go to school. I would say that my stomach hurt or that I had a headache – anything so that she would keep me home from school. When I would go to the Principal and try to talk to him, I was told, “Ignore it and it will stop”, “you brought it on yourself”, and “you need counseling because it’s your fault you have no friends.” I would always ask myself, “How did I bring this on by being me?”
Demi Lovato stated in an interview “People say sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can never hurt you, but that’s not true. Words can hurt. They hurt me. Things were said to me that I still haven’t forgotten.” Her statement spoke to my very core because I remember receiving a letter from an elementary school classmate that told me that, at 12 years old “I was nothing…a nobody”,” a useless piece of trash”, and “a child that should never have been born.” I don’t care what anyone says; words can be downright hurtful. Because of those hurtful words, I tried to commit suicide and have the scars to prove it.
Those words from a classmate have stuck with me for 30+ years and they still resonate in my soul as an adult. The even sadder part of the story is that as an adult, I stopped going to shul for a few years because I was bullied by a member of the congregation. Sadly at that point, I did not stand up for myself but I have since found my voice and have returned to Shul and speak out when I see someone not being treated well.
Leviticus 19:18, says “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This passage tells us to see people for who they really are, not simply assume that we know who they are. This is not easy, but it is our responsibility to teach our children this lesson. I wish people would take the time to repeat this passage to themselves and really think about the harm that negative words can have on others and how they would feel if those hurtful words were said to them.
No matter who you are or what your beliefs are, bullying is WRONG and unfair. The problem that I have now is that it is not only kids and teenagers who do this. I see and deal with many adults who do it as well. Aren’t our children supposed to learn by example? What kind of examples are people setting when they, as adults, are bullying classmates, co-workers, and peers? I see examples of bullying each and every day. Not long ago, I was trying on dresses in an upscale dress shop and because I am not a “normal” size, the store had very little for me try on. A mother and daughter were in the store picking out the daughter’s prom gown. When I came out of my dressing room, they said that I was fat and ugly in Spanish. When I spoke to the salesperson about the situation, she just looked at me, smiled and walked away. I got dressed and left the store in tears. I let their “ugliness” bother me – not for long, but long enough for me to come home and cry to my husband. I then said to myself, “You are a beautiful person both inside and out.”
My question is, when does it stop? When are people going to stop and say, “Would I say that to my sister or my friend?”